SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Traveling the city, picking up donations from grocery stores and bakeries is keeping volunteer Alexandra Paul busy during quarantine. Paul has been working with Food Not Bombs for eight years and she has put in more hours in the past few months than ever before.
“We have a sense of community here. When a lot of people feel lonely, when I’m out here working with Food Not Bombs, I don’t feel lonely,” said Paul.
Every Thursday night, Paul, along with other volunteers, hopes to make the homeless community feel less lonely too with the organization serving free meals at the Salvation Army in Santa Monica. It used to be a buffet-style, sit-down meal, but it all changed due to the coronavirus.
“Feeding folks is considered an essential service. Because libraries were closed and restaurants were closed, people weren’t out in the streets. The homeless population were left outside high and dry for the most part,” said Paul.
Volunteers knew they needed to continue cooking and serving healthy, vegetarian meals, but now everything is to go.
“We adapted quickly, but everyone stepped up,” said Paul.
Not only how the meals were served changed, but who served them did too. Paul says they lost 70% of their regulars, because many chose to stay home for health reasons. But church members and those from the Salvation Army came in to fill the gap.
Those at home still are lending a helping hand by baking bread, mashing potatoes, and making sandwiches from their kitchens. Volunteer Richard Carter saying nothing will stop the organization from giving back.
“Someone has to be human to them. Someone has to be supportive and compassionate and understanding and loving, so they can feel the community is with them,” said Carter.
Even though they are unable to offer that sit-down experience, where the homeless community can come together for a sense of normalcy, Paul says they still want to offer a warm meal with a warm welcome in this new way.
“It’s not being able to sit down, use the bathrooms, the difference of that community feel, but everybody has a community feel anyway, because we all know we are plowing through doing the best that we can,” said Paul.
And they will continue to do the best that they can every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Santa Monica.